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Exploring “Deep Roots”: Politics of Place and Groundwater Management Practices in the Pajaro Valley, California

Rudestam, Kirsten, Brown, Abigail, Langridge, Ruth
Society & natural resources 2018 v.31 no.3 pp. 291-305
anthropology, basins, climate change, groundwater, interviews, natural resources, politics, water management, California
Groundwater is one of the most critical natural resources in an era of climate change, yet groundwater depletion is extensive in many parts of the world. The Pajaro Valley, an agricultural region in Central California, exemplifies the common challenges to sustainably manage a groundwater basin. This article draws on materialist conceptions of power and political economy, and humanist conceptions of place identity and dependence, to illuminate how both can influence groundwater management practices. Through ethnographic observation and interviews with self-identified groundwater users, we find that social character, economic interactions, and dominant understandings of culture and community all work together to define personal and collective meanings of and attachments to place. We suggest that using a “politics of place” approach can provide a deeper understanding of why particular groundwater management practices occur, and that this can aid in shaping future sustainability efforts.